Prospect or not? Matt Hague
So, across the organization, the injury bug is ripping out the hope, huh? Duke at the ML level, Brock Holt and Tony Sanchez in Bradenton are the latest to be bitten. On the other side, we’ve had positive starts from Kelson Brown, Chase Lyles and Adalberto Santos in State College, and Altoona keeps right on rolling! Heck, the Buccos even broke the string of losses and got a 2 win streak to boot.
But this post, like most of this blog, is about the positives. And while I’ll talk a little bit about Altoona, I’ll focus on some individuals too. The 46-24 Curve are 10 games ahead in their division leading from the Bowie Baysox, the AA affiliate of the Os, the only team in the majors with a worse record than the Pirates! Bryan Morris and Rudy Owens’ performances are well-documented, so I won’t go into those too much. So also with Danny Moskos, who has been great in the closing role for Altoona. Here’s hoping these 3 can continue their ways. But 3 people don’t carry a club, and the other, more intriguing (because they come with less hype) guys in Altoona are the ones we will discuss here. Justin Wilson and Alex Presley, 2 guys who have been great this year, were prospects but with question marks- they were on the borderline of too-old-for-the-level, and needed to make their play on the field speak, which it is doing. We’ll take a closer look at them later. D’Arnaud, Mercer and Harrison, the infield trio promoted from Lynchburg after winning the championship scuffled some, especially the first 2, and Harrison has his question marks. D’Arnaud and Mercer look like they are starting to make the adjustments necessary, but we’ll have to wait for their performances to make an impact. Gorkys Hernandez has a long way to go after an abysmal year in the Pirates’ system.
But the guy I really want to look at in this post is 1B Matt Hague. Hague started slow, then picked up the pace, and is doing pretty well now. His triple slash line is .302/.389/.405. The slugging isnt nearly good enough for 1B, and he’s going to be 25 in August. What do we make of Hague then?
Our first stop is WTM’s invaluable profile of Hague at the time of the 2008 draft. According to it, BA profiled him for RF, and the Pirates picked him in the 9th round announcing him as a 3B! His college numbers indicate that he had a good bat, but the HR count isnt quite that high, although the overall slugging appears to be fine. The other interesting thing there is the K:BB. In his junior and senior years, he walked more than he struck out. An advanced eye at the plate has probably been his biggest ally in the minor leagues thus far.
So, what should we expect from him going forward? How soon will he be in AAA? I expect he will be in AAA as soon as the Clement issue is resolved, which is next year, since Clement has no options left. If they really like Hague, he could be promoted to the outfield in Indianapolis, which isn’t the strongest, and its time the Pirates started cutting bait with the fringy OFs- Moss, Jones come to mind straight away!
Hague’s first raised flag comes in the form of a platoon split with a 100 point difference in OPS from LHP to RHP. This is not unusual and would be perfectly acceptable, if only the absolute value of that OPS against RHP was about a .100 more than .824. He absolutely has to be over .900 against RHP in AA/AAA if he wants to even be part of a productive platoon at 1B. His eye remains good though, and he has walked more than he’s struck out in AA, which is very good. A higher percentage of walks drawn would be even better, especially since he doesn’t hit for much power, but about 11% is an acceptable output. His BA is .297 with a .320ish BABIP that is lower than his career BABIP, so this is about where he should be.
It seems to me that his major league potential is tied to an improvement in the power numbers. His ISO in high A was 119, unacceptable for a 1B or a corner OF. His GB/LD/FB percentages are all pretty good, and look very similar to those of Alvarez or Smoak, so his approach at the plate would not appear to be a major issue. It would appear to me that he has one of 2 options. Go on an extensive health regimen in order to generate more power and turn some more of those line drives and flyballs into homeruns, or rework his swing slightly to generate more line drives, and more extra bases. His GB% of around 45 could decrease too, but it might be harder to make enough adjustments to make that work. Of course, there’s always the option of sitting back and praying that the power comes!
Hague has what it would take to be a big leaguer, and if he can develop power, he could be an elite player. It doesn’t look likely that he will, but he certainly does need to try to develop enough power that the slugging percentage will rise into the high .400s at the very least. He is the kind of player whose best shot might to be to spend 2011 in AAA, and hope that the 2 years between now and the start of the 2012 season are enough for him to develop power, in order to have a chance at cracking a big league roster around age 27 or 28. His eye at the plate is his biggest asset and he certainly profiles well as a bench player at least.
It will be interesting to see how Matt Hague does going forward, and what the Pirates do with him. I’d love to get feedback on what people out there think of Hague, as well as aspects of his game that I may have missed. (I know I’ve skipped over his fielding, but there isn’t enough useful data to draw any conclusions. He’s an adequate defender at 1st but I haven’t heard much else about him.